For the young and restless, paradise can either be a fleeting notion where love, fantasy and freedom collide, or an aching grip on the heart that is ever elusive to the bittersweet pain of life. In either case, it can be completely disconnected from the true sense of spirituality, leaving behind the only existing question on what paradise means to those who think they’ve encountered it here on earth or have imagined it in the subconscious state of mind. This was London-based artist, Saad Qureshi’s soul-searching question when he set out to comprehend the meaning of paradise to people of all ages and faiths. “Paradise is a very personal place. Over the course of my life, it’s a word that has kept recurring in a variety of guises,’ he says.
“As I grew up and my experiences broadened, I realized that the paradise others spoke of was often radically different from mine, yet never too far from our consciousness.”For his first solo museum exhibition in London at Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP) taking place in January 2020, the young British artist who lives and works in London and Oxford, explores what paradise means in a contemporary context. After travelling the world and gathering stories from people with and without faith, Qureshi began to interpret their descriptions, imaginations and visions experienced in memories and dreams to create physical installations that he refers to as ‘mindscapes’.
Saad Qureshi's Places For Nova (detail) (2017)
Supported through public funding by the National Lottery through the Arts Council England and by Gazelli Art House, London, his upcoming exhibition entitled Something About Paradisebrings to life larger-than-life depictions that bring visual and mixed art together. Seven ornate, hand-cut and painted wooden gates that refer to the gates of paradise, and the seven heavens that are common to many religions are seen to be emerging in the nave of YSP’s Chapel walls. “Qureshi has created a poetic and evocative installation that resonates deeply with the contemplative environment of YSP’s 18th century Chapel. His beguiling mindscapes weave together fragments of our individual dreams, aspirations and beliefs into an extraordinary and collective utopian landscape. The exact narratives behind this landscape remain hidden and Qureshi is the keeper of the key to their secrets,” says Sarah Coulson, Curator at Yorkshire Sculpture Park.
Known as one of the best places in Europe to experience modern and contemporary sculpture in the open air, YSP will feature three monumental organic forms that reflect the idea of paradise, where the sculptures showcase an eclectic mix of architectural styles, from traditional temples and churches to modernist houses and palaces, all nestled among panoramas of forests, desserts and fantastical geological formations.
An art installation by Saad Qureshi
Qureshi, who features in 100 Sculptors of Tomorrow (Thames & Hudson, 2019) and who has exhibited his work in New York, London, California, Dubai, Beijing, and Qatar, is an artist who uses stories and imaginations to create visual art that speaks of visions and emotions. “Whether speaking to atheists and agnostics or to people of faith, what they have in common – whether speaking of places, experiences, holidays or “heaven” – is a complex of associations to do with peace, delight, or a shimmery sense of the ethereal that transcends personal and common mythologies, uniting them all in a general longing,” he explains. Through these gripping installations, Qureshi welcomes viewers to find their own meaning of paradise by evoking a sense of home in the heavens, irrespective of religious beliefs. “Over the past three years, it has been fascinating to follow the course of Qureshi’s career and to work closely with him on the development of Something About Paradise,” says Coulson of this new chapter in Qureshi’s career.
“This ambitious new body of work has really extended the scope of his practice and we are delighted to be able to host his first solo museum exhibition.” Known for his work that goes beyond lived-in experiences and into memories and the very perception of existence, Qureshi is an artist with the ability to present aspects of life on a different dimension of time and space and in a medium and form that forces one to see beyond what is visible to the eye.
Something About Paradise will run from 4 January to 15 March, 2020 at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, West Yorkshire, England
Images courtesy of Saad Qureshi